May 7, 2020 / 3:53 AM / 21 days ago

China's April soybean imports fall on cargo delay in Brazil

BEIJING, May 7 (Reuters) - China’s April soybean imports fell 12% from a year earlier, customs data showed on Thursday, after bad weather delayed cargoes from top supplier Brazil.

China, the world’s top soybean buyer, brought in 6.716 million tonnes of the oilseed in April, down from 7.64 million tonnes a year ago, according to Reuters calculations based on data from the General Administration of Customs.

Rains in late February held back the harvest and exports in Brazil, leading to record-low levels of soybeans and soymeal in China. Some crushers had to curb operations, while state stockpiler Sinograin released soybeans from reserves to state-owned crusher China Oil and Foodstuffs Corp (COFCO).

April imports rose from 4.28 million tonnes in March, when shipments were also affected by cargo delays and disruptions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

For the first four months of 2020, China imported 24.51 million tonnes of soybeans, customs said.

Supply shortages started to ease at China’s southern ports in the second half of April as more cargoes began to arrive due to improved weather conditions in Brazil.

A large volume of beans was expected to land in May and June, with the number of shipments leaving Brazil in March hitting a record high. It takes about 40 days for a ship to travel from Brazil to China.

China’s national weekly soybean stocks CFD-SBSTK-NATN rose to 4.26 million tonnes by May 6, up from 3.31 million tonnes in late March, the lowest since at least 2010.

Weekly soymeal inventories were at 185,500 tonnes by May 6, after hitting a record low on April 19. CFD-SBMST-NATN

China’s soybean demand has been curbed by the deadly African swine fever disease, which has cut China’s pig herd by at least 40%.

The herd is starting to recover as farmers restock, supported by high profits and government measures to boost production.

Demand for meats like pork has been dampened by measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak, which shut down restaurants, kept people in their homes and slowed the overall economy.

Reporting by Hallie Gu and Shivani Singh; Editing by Christian Schmollinger

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